Warner Bros. // 2008 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // October 8th, 2008
Otis: Uncut tells the story of a pizza delivery dude named Otis, who likes nothing more than to kidnap young girls. Once captured, Otis will enslave, violate, and eventually murder his victims. Do I need to tell you this is a comedy?
Riley Lawson becomes the latest victim of kidnapper/serial killer Otis Broth. Imprisoning Riley in his dungeon, Otis forces her to partake in his sick, prom night-based fantasies. Though previous victims have all come to an unfortunate end, Riley plays it smart and manages to escape Otis's clutches.
Having been tormented by Otis's phone calls to them, describing the vile acts he will perform on their daughter, Riley's family decide to take matters into their own hands upon their daughter's return. Setting out with a selection of power tools and other homemade weapons, the Lawsons capture Otis and unleash their fury upon him. At least, they think it's Otis...
It's impossible to talk about Otis: Uncut without mentioning Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left. Lifting the family revenge plot wholesale from Last House, Otis loses much of the nastiness of Craven's shocker, but replaces it with a knowing sense of humor that apes the current trend for "torture porn." However, while The Last House on the Left may provide the blueprint for Otis, the film's overall tone put me more in mind of Natural Born Killers, chiefly the scene involving the murder of Mallory's abusive father, played by Rodney Dangerfield. Though lacking the stylistic flair of Oliver Stone's film, Otis retains Killers' darkly comic tendencies that, by mixing a Looney Tunes approach to violence with an all too real subject matter, very occasionally border on the disturbing.
Though I wouldn't have minded seeing ten minutes shaved off the running time, director Tony Krantz keeps his movie ticking along at a fair old pace. The movie opens with a short pre-credit sequence that, as in the Saw franchise, captures the final moments of a previous victim. During this prologue, Krantz reveals little of the comedy that will soon seep into the screenplay. Indeed, scenes shared between Otis and his victims continue to be played straight throughout the movie, maintaining an unnerving hold over the viewer. The film's comedy, like Krantz's interest, is reserved primarily for the family of Otis' latest victim: the Lawsons. Appearing to be the archetypical American family, Krantz, through the actions of the Lawsons, is keen to deconstruct Middle America and explore the darkness that dwells within the heart of suburbia.
As the head of the family, Will Lawson (Daniel Stern, Home Alone) is feeling emasculated by his boss at work and struggling to exert himself at home. Kate Lawson (Illeana Douglas, Happy, Texas) initially comes over as being normal, but quickly reveals this to be a façade used to conceal a fractured psyche. The most obviously troubled of the Lawson clan, however, is Reed (Jared Kusnitz, Dance of the Dead), Will and Kate's son. Pulled up at school for drug use, showing numerous violent tendencies, and even taking photos of his sister in a state of undress, Reed is a time bomb waiting to go off. Though Reed is clearly a disturbed young man, Krantz is quick to argue that, with the right push, anyone of us can become that which we fear most. The moral ambiguity of the Lawsons' actions fuels the film's humor, ensuring the comedy stays decidedly black.
While the film's plot stays on a very narrow course offering few, if any, surprises, Otis is redeemed by the truly bizarre characters that inhabit its world. Agent Hotchkiss, played with aplomb by Jere Burns, is a delightfully twisted creation, almost as warped as the killer he tracks. Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas, as the parents suddenly consumed by bloody revenge, appear to be having a ball and are totally captivating, no matter how unrealistic the actions they take become. Bostin Christopher really shines as the title character. Clumsy, awkward, and a total psycho, Christopher is never less than totally watchable, particularly in the unsettling, yet hilarious, scene where Otis is "relieved" of his tensions. Ashley Johnson, as "survivor girl" Riley Lawson, makes for a genuinely sympathetic victim. Perhaps the one character that will draw any emotional response from the audience, Riley is the one sane character in the whole movie. A side effect of this is that she feels a little out of place in a film full of whack jobs.
Otis: Uncut comes to Blu-Ray presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Sadly the 1080p transfer proves to be a disappointment. The image is often too soft and is plagued by frequent occurrences of noise (particularly evident in night shots). It all ends up looking a little cheap and artificial, with none of the "pop" that hi-def adopters have come to expect. Though the Blu-Ray release features a 5.1 TrueHD track, it barely pushes the format with its front-heavy mix. Still, unlike the video presentation, the soundtrack lacks any serious flaws.
For no apparent reason, Warner Bros. have decided to release Otis: Uncut on Blu-Ray completely bereft of the extras that graced the DVD release. So, not only are Blu-Ray enthusiasts expected to pay more for the hi-def version, they also get gypped on the extras. I call a foul.
It may make for a perfectly entertaining Friday night movie, but Otis: Uncut plays it a little too fast and loose with both characters and plot. Although Riley and Otis both retain a semblance of realism, other characters are too cartoon-like. While this is no problem when they're on their own, put them together and they clash rather than gel. While those well-schooled in the horror genre should get the numerous references and see the film for the satire it is, regardless of whether they actually enjoy the film or not, this lack of believable characters and dubious logic is likely to hinder the film's appeal.
My final complaint, which is less damning than it may first appear, is that, for a horror-comedy, Otis is neither scary enough nor in possession of enough laughs. While an increase in gore and a higher joke quota would undeniably have helped Otis gain greater recognition, the film's oddball cast of characters and undemanding nature seem set for some kind of cult following.
A mildly disappointing hi-def transfer and a total lack of extras means that, should Otis float your boat, the DVD version, which comes with an impressive set of extras, is the way to go.
A guilty pleasure, perhaps, but Otis: Uncut is found not guilty. However, the lack of extras, coupled with a poor transfer, means the Blu-Ray release is best left on the shelf.
Review content copyright © 2008 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site